United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Top US Negotiator on Iran Nuke Talks

            On October 23, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman called on Iran’s leaders to “make the right choice” in nuclear talks with the world’s six major powers  – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. “This is the time to finish the job,” the lead U.S. negotiator said at a symposium hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sherman warned that Tehran would widely be seen as responsible if the two sides do not reach a comprehensive agreement that curbs Iran's controversial nuclear program. The following are excerpts from her address.

      I don’t and won’t want to say anything today that would jeopardize our chance to bring those deliberations to a successful close. As Madeleine Albright once observed – a wonderful Secretary of State, a dear friend, and a business partner to boot at one point in my life – negotiations are like mushrooms, and often they do best in the dark. There are, however, many aspects of the topic that can be usefully explored and are fully in keeping with the focus of our gathering, which is blessed with an outstanding array of experts on relations between Iran and particularly the West.
             To begin, I’d like to simply emphasize how important the P5+1 negotiations are. An Iran equipped with nuclear arms would add an unacceptable element of instability and danger to a part of the globe that already has a surplus of both. If Tehran had such a weapon, other countries in the region might well pursue the same goal, generating a potentially catastrophic arms race, intensifying the sectarian divide that is a major source of Middle East tension, and undermining the global nonproliferation regime that President Obama has consistently sought to reinforce.
            That is why the President has pledged to ensure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. Our preference is to achieve this goal by diplomatic means. But make no mistake. Our bottom line is unambiguous, crystal clear, and, quite frankly, written in stone: Iran will not, shall not obtain a nuclear weapon.
            A major step in the right direction of that pursuit was taken last January when we began implementing a negotiating framework called the Joint Plan of Action. In return for limited sanctions relief, Iran committed – while talks are underway – to freeze and even roll back key components of its nuclear activities. Specifically, Iran has halted the expansion of its overall enrichment capacity; put a cap on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride; stopped the production of uranium enriched to 20 percent; agreed not to make further advances at the Arak heavy water reactor; and opened the door to unprecedented daily access for international inspectors to the facilities at Natanz and Fordow.
            At the time the Joint Plan was announced, many observers expressed profound doubt that Iran would abide by its commitments. But according to the IAEA – the International Atomic Energy Agency – Iran has done what it promised to do. The result is a nuclear program that is more constrained and transparent than it has been in many years. In turn, the P5+1 has fulfilled its commitment to provide limited sanctions relief. More extensive relief will come when – and only when – we are able to arrive at a comprehensive deal that addresses the concerns of the world community. Such a plan, if fully implemented, would give confidence that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and would enable the Iranian people to look forward to a much brighter future.
            We are aware, of course, that this negotiating process is, shall we say, controversial. Some worry that it will fail. Others seem to fear that it will succeed. Many have questions and doubts. As our discussions have gone forward, the Obama Administration has consulted regularly with members of Congress and with our many overseas partners, including Israel and the Gulf states.
            We have heard a variety of concerns and done our best to answer hard questions regarding the possible nature and implications of a potential deal, while reaffirming our enduring commitment to the security of the region. These conversations have been and continue to be quite valuable, and taken together, have reinforced our conviction that, although every alternative has risks, the decision to fully explore a diplomatic solution is the right one.

            There does, however, remain much hard work to be done. As we approach the November 24th deadline, the valuable safeguards included in the Joint Plan of Action are still in place. Our goal now is to develop a durable and comprehensive arrangement that will effectively block all of Iran’s potential paths to fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Such an arrangement would bar Iran from producing fuel for a weapon with either uranium or plutonium. Through inspections and monitoring, it would also offer the best method to prevent the covert processing of these materials and make any effort by Tehran to turn away from its obligations so visible and so time-consuming that the attempt would not succeed.
Given the stakes, it should be no surprise that our talks have moved forward at a deliberative pace, which is diplo-speak for “not so fast.” Last week, my P5+1 colleagues and I were in Vienna yet again, or to be more precise, confined to a hotel that happens to be located in Vienna while subsisting on endless cups of coffee and a hotel buffet that specializes in turkey schnitzel.
            The Iranian delegation is headed by Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, while the chief negotiator for the P5+1 is the very capable High Representative of the European Union, Cathy Ashton. Both sides are assisted by teams of technical experts who help us understand the full range of our options. From the beginning, our talks have been serious and businesslike; they have also occurred in a variety of venues and formats. To date, we have met in Geneva and New York, as well as Vienna; we have had bilaterals, trilaterals, hexalaterals and plenaries; and we have devoted some sessions to broad principles and others to the very laborious task of defining specific technical parameters. We have also met at various levels: the specialist, the delegation heads, and sometimes – as in Europe this past week – Secretary Kerry takes the American chair.
            It’s no secret that among the P5+1 governments there exist some major differences on prominent issues in the world. But with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, solidarity has been our watchword. We are all working towards the same goal. To that end, our group has proposed to Iran a number of ideas that are equitable, enforceable, and consistent with Tehran’s expressed desire for a viable civilian nuclear program and that take into account that country’s scientific knowhow and economic needs.
            Iran’s Supreme Leader has repeatedly said that his government has neither the aspiration nor the intention of building a nuclear weapon; indeed, he has said that such a project would be forbidden under Islam. So our proposals are consistent with Iran’s own publicly-stated position. If Iran truly wants to resolve its differences with the international community and facilitate the lifting of economic sanctions, it will have no better chance than between now and November 24th. This is the time to finish the job.
            Will that happen? I don’t know. I can tell you that all the components of a plan that should be acceptable to both sides are on the table. We have made impressive progress on issues that originally seemed intractable. We have cleared up misunderstandings and held exhaustive discussions on every element of a possible text. However, like any complicated and technically complex diplomatic initiative, this is a puzzle with many interlocking pieces.
Because of this, it would be a mistake to focus inordinate attention on any one issue at the expense of all others. Every piece is critical whether it involves infrastructure, or stockpiles, or research, or types of equipment, or questions of timing or sequencing. But one area that has drawn much comment – in part because of Iran’s own public statements – concerns the size and scope of the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment capacity.
            Iran’s leaders would very much hope that the world would conclude that the status quo – at least on this pivotal subject – should be acceptable, but obviously, it is not. If it were, we would never have needed to begin this painstaking and difficult negotiation. The Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran for a reason, and that is because the government violated its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, engaged in secret nuclear-weapons-related activities, and was less than transparent in reporting to international agencies. That past has created a thick cloud of doubt that cannot be dissipated by Tehran’s words and promises alone. The world will decide to suspend and then lift nuclear-related sanctions only if and when Iran takes convincing and verifiable steps to show that its nuclear program is and will remain entirely peaceful. That is a reasonable standard that Iran can readily meet. It is the standard that Iran must meet. And it is the key to ending Iran’s international isolation.
            The Obama Administration recognizes that in diplomacy, it is sometimes a good idea to widen the agenda so that a tradeoff on one issue can be balanced by flexibility on another. Given the turbulence roiling in the Middle East today, the temptation to link the nuclear question to other topics is understandable. However, all parties have agreed that this should be a single-track negotiation, with its own defined set of participants, its own logic, and a clear bottom line. We are concentrating on one job and one job only, and that is ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.
            I should note, however, in separate and dedicated meetings on the margins of each of our talks, I and members of my team raise our concerns regarding the status of U.S. citizens missing or detained in Iran. Nothing matters more to me as Under Secretary of State than ensuring the fair treatment of American citizens. Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Jason Rezaian should be allowed to return without delay to their families, and we must do all we can to find answers regarding the whereabouts and well-being of Robert Levinson and bring him home too.
            Whether or not a nuclear deal is reached, the United States will continue to voice its longstanding concerns about Iranian policies that undermine regional stability or that are inconsistent with global norms and values. We will continue to hold Iran’s Government accountable for all aspects of its human rights record and for actions that exacerbate sectarian divisions. As is the case with any country, engagement on one issue does not require and will not lead to silence on others.
            In his Inaugural Address more than 50 years ago, President John Kennedy asked in the Cold War context whether a beachhead of cooperation might one day push back the jungle of suspicion separating East from West. Today, there are those in the United States who disbelieve almost everything Iranian leaders say, and there are many in Iran who question whether America will live up to whatever commitments we make. Clearly, there exists, if not a jungle, then at least a forest of distrust on both sides. Given what has happened in past decades, how could there not be? But I can affirm to you this afternoon that the United States will not accept any arrangement we can’t verify, and that we won’t make any promises we can’t keep. Just as we will demand good faith, so will we demonstrate good faith.
            Last fall, the President of the United States and the leaders of Iran decided to test the possibilities of direct negotiations on the nuclear issue. Both faced resistance and criticism for taking this bold step. And yet, both still chose to accept the risks of diplomacy over the even greater uncertainties of other options. We do not yet know what the full consequences of this decision will be. But the world is clearly better off now than it would have been if the leaders on both sides had ignored this opening. With all that is going on in the Middle East today, an Iranian nuclear program that was not frozen but instead rushing full speed ahead toward larger stockpiles, more uranium enrichment capacity, the production of weapons-grade plutonium, and less transparency would hardly have been a stabilizing factor. Although our negotiating progress to date hasn’t fulfilled our highest hopes, it has still exceeded the expectation of many observers.
            Make no mistake. Developing a consensus on a comprehensive plan will require some extraordinarily difficult decisions and we should all appreciate that. This negotiation is the very opposite of easy. But the potential benefits are quite extraordinary. And it is vital that we understand that, as well. Because the acceptance and implementation of a comprehensive plan will improve prospects for people everywhere. It will reduce anxiety and enhance security throughout the Middle East. It will make possible an era of greater prosperity without any loss of dignity for the people of Iran. It will protect our allies and partners from a new and dangerous threat. It will lessen the incentive for a regional nuclear arms race and thereby strengthen the international nuclear proliferation regime. It will make our own citizens safer. And it will demonstrate yet again the potential for clear-eyed diplomacy to arrive at win-win solutions achievable in no other way. In sum, compared to any alternatives, diplomacy can provide a more sustained and durable resolution to the issues generated by Iran’s nuclear activities.
            Almost 800 years ago, the Persian poet Saadi advised listeners to “Have patience; all things are difficult before they become easy.”
Despite the intense efforts of negotiators from seven countries and the European Union, we are still in that “difficult” stage. We must use the remaining time wisely and with a sense of urgency and purpose.
            In closing, let me affirm that the United States and its partners are prepared to take advantage of this historic opportunity to resolve our concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. We hope the leaders in Tehran will agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that this program will be exclusively peaceful and thereby end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation and improve further the lives of their people. If that does not happen, the responsibility will be seen by all to rest with Iran.
            We encourage Iran to make the right choice. Meanwhile, we remain steadfast in our determination to take the steps necessary to protect America’s security and to improve the prospects for stability and peace across the globe. We hope Iran will make the right choice. We are ready to do so.
Click here for a full transcript.


Thousands Protest Acid Attacks on Women

            Men riding on motorcycles splashed acid on at least four women in Isfahan, allegedly targeting them for being improperly veiled. Accounts on social media suggested that there may have been as many as a dozen victims, and police arrested four people in relation to the attacks. The incidents sparked protests on October 22, when 2,000 people gathered outside the judiciary in Isfahan to demand that authorities end violence against women.
            Women in Iran are legally required to dress modestly and wear hijabs to cover their hair and neck. But in recent years, many women have pushed the limits of these regulations and worn veils with their hair partially uncovered. Hardliners in Iran have been attempting to pass legislation that would protect citizens trying to enforce the dress code, but Rouhani and his allies have opposed these measures.
            Officials and activists have condemned the recent attacks, and Iranian member of parliament Ahmad Shouhani stated that “any improper veiling should be punished by law, not individually.” But other officials have noted that police have not yet officially linked the attacks to improper veiling, and denied that Iran’s dress code was a contributing factor. The government has cracked down on media coverage of the attacks, and four journalists were arrested on October 27 from the Iranian Students' News Agency, which was reportedly the first to connect the attacks with improper veiling. One of them, Arya Jaffari, remains in custody. 129 journalists have signed a letter demanding his release.
            The following are quotes from officials and tweets about the attacks and protests.
President Hassan Rouhani
            “Rue the day some lead our society down the path to insecurity, sow discord and cause rifts, all under the flag of Islam…We should not see vice as manifested only in bad hijab and overlook lies, corruption, slander, and bribery.”
            October 22, 2014, according to Bloomberg
            “The sacred call to virtue is not the right of a select group of people, a handful taking the moral high ground and acting as guardians.”
            October 22, 2014 according to The New York Times
             “The issue was an inhumane event, incompatible with any principles, and is the most heinous act that an evil person can commit in the society.”
            Oct. 27, 2014 according to Press TV

Vice President for Women’s Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi

            “There should not have been so much violence towards women in Iran...If we want women to flourish in society we must first protect them.”
            October 21, 2014 according to NBC News
Iranian member of parliament Ahmad Shouhani
            "Any improper veiling should be punished by law, not individually."
             October 20, 2014 according to the BBC
Deputy Interior Minister Morteza Mirbagheri
            “The acid attacks in Isfahan were not serial crimes.” [In response to assertions that attacks were linked to the women's attire]
             “We have arrested three to four suspects.”
             October 20, 2014 according to The Guardian
Member of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee Abbas-Ali Mansouri
            “Foreign and Zionist intelligence agencies,” were aiding those carrying out the attacks in order to distort Islam’s image worldwide.
            October 20, 2014 according to The Guardian
Cleric Hojatoleslam Mohammad Taghi Rahbar
            “Such an act under any pretext is reprehensible.”
            “Even if a woman goes out into the street in the worst way, no one has the right to do such a thing.”
            October 22, 2014 according to Al-Arabiya

Human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh
            "Dispatching unidentified and untrained individuals to promote virtue among citizens is completely against the law, legal principles, and legal rationale, and is a menace to the citizens which must be stopped right here."
            "I hope the horrific incidents in Isfahan serve as alarm bells for the officials, and for this Plan to be eliminated...The officials must think to themselves whether their own daughters, wives, and sisters would match the principles of [those who consider themselves] 'preventers of vice,' and if not, should they be forced to pay this high price?"
            October 22, 2014, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Head of the Basij Paramilitary Force General Mohammad Reza Naghdi
            “Today we are seeing the foreign media network trying to link this crime to promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.”
            October 23, 2014 according to Time
            “Immediately, foreign media took action and with similar headlines tried to associate the attacks with 'enjoining good and forbidding wrong.'”
            “Why did this attack happen at the same time parliament introduced [the bill on] 'enjoining good and forbidding wrong?'”
            “We can say with certainty that associating this evil and forbidden act with 'enjoining good and forbidding wrong' was a calculated act of agents of foreign media.”
            Oct. 30, 2014, according to the press
Former Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi
            “Unfortunately, when the law for 'enjoining good and forbidding wrong' was taken to parliament, we witnessed an event such as acid attacks and with precision, it came out in the media of the enemy.”
            “Investigating the behind-the-scenes points of this situation show that it was a planned conspiracy by foreign agents in order to confront 'enjoining good and forbidding wrong.”
            Oct. 30, 2014, according to the press
Senior Iranian cleric Kazem Seddiqi
            “Some people are trying to create the impression that the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice is to disrupt public security.”
            “[Acid attacks are] a plot to overshadow the legislation on promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, which is a religious obligation.”
            Oct. 31, 2014, according to the press


Iran Nuke Program 1: ABCs of Issues

      There’s no one single formula for a nuclear deal with Iran. The United States compares negotiations to solving a Rubik’s Cube™, because so many pieces are involved—and moving one moves all the others. (The world’s most popular puzzle has 43 quintillion permutations to solve it so all the colors match on the six faces.) These are some of the key issues in the Rubik’s Cube of a nuclear deal.



         CENTRIFUGES: Since 2002, Iran has built centrifuges to enrich uranium, which can fuel both peaceful energy and deadly bombs. Tehran claims it is only for medical research and energy. But Iran’s abilities far exceed its current needs; Russia provides fuel for Iran’s single nuclear reactor.
            Iran now has about 19,000 centrifuges—up from less than 200 a decade ago. The vast majority of these are first-generation “IR-1” centrifuges, but Iran has begun installing much more sophisticated “IR-2” models. About 10,000 are enriching uranium at Iran’s two enrichment facilities, Natanz and Fordow; the rest are installed but not operating. The more centrifuges or the more advanced centrifuges Iran has, the faster it can enrich uranium.

            A deal will try to reduce the number of Iran’s centrifuges. Outside experts suggest the goal could be to limit Iran to between 2,000 and 6,000 operating IR-1 centrifuges, and place constraints on research and development into more advanced machines.

          ENRICHMENT: Uranium enriched to 90 percent is the purest form to fuel a weapon. Prior to the November 24 “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA) interim nuclear deal, Iran was enriching up to 20 percent level; under the JPOA, enrichment has been temporarily capped at five percent or less.
            A final deal could seek to limit enrichment to five percent or less.
          STOCKPILE: The larger the stockpile of uranium gas, the faster Iran could produce fuel for a bomb. Iran had 447 kg of uranium enriched at 20 percent before the interim deal went into effect in January. It has since begun “neutralizing” its 20 percent stockpile by diluting 104 kg to 3.5 percent enriched uranium and converting another 287 kg into uranium oxide powder. As of May, Iran had an estimated 56 kg of uranium gas enriched at 20 percent. It is due to dilute or oxidize all its 20 percent uranium gas by July 20.

            A deal could seek to limit the stockpile of 5 percent enriched uranium and require Iran to further reduce its stockpile of 20 percent uranium in oxide form. Iran may be allowed to keep some for research, but not enough to quickly build a bomb.

         NATANZ: Iran’s primary enrichment facility includes three underground buildings, two of which are designed to hold 50,000 centrifuges, and six buildings built above ground.
            A deal will try to limit the program at Natanz.
          FORDO: The smaller, underground enrichment facility near Qom includes two halls; each could hold 1,500 centrifuges. Iran claims Fordow is to enrich uranium up to 20 percent— only for research. But skeptics contend the deeply-buried site, designed to survive aerial bombardment, is intended to take 20 percent enriched material from Natanz and enrich it to higher levels for use in a nuclear weapon.
            A deal will try to end enrichment activities at Fordow, perhaps converting it to a research-only facility.
            ARAK: The small heavy-water reactor, begun in the 1990s, is unfinished. Iran claims it is to produce medical isotopes and thermal power for civilian use. But the design would also produce plutonium that, if chemically reprocessed, could provide an alternative fuel to uranium for an atomic bomb. Nine kilograms of plutonium is enough material to fuel one or two nuclear weapons. After completion, Arak would need to run for 12 to 18 months to generate that much plutonium.
            A deal will try to close Arak or redesign it in a way to substantially reduce plutonium output. A deal will also try prohibit Iran from building a reprocessing facility.
          INSPECTIONS and VERIFICATION: Any deal will require considerable transparency into the nature and extent of Iran’s civilian nuclear infrastructure, as well as possible past military dimensions of its program. A deal will also involve extensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Natanz, Fordow, Arak, centrifuge assembly facilities, uranium mines, research facilities—and possibly other sites—aimed at ensuring that Iran’s program remains solely for peaceful purposes.

             It may also cover access to sites suspected of past work on bomb components, such as Parchin military base. And it is likely to require Tehran’s acceptance of the IAEA’s “Additional Protocol,” allowing inspections at both declared and undeclared sites—and maybe other intrusive measures.

          IRAN’S RED LINES:
            Iran has its own configurations for the Rubik’s Cube of a deal. They include:
  • Preserving key elements of its nuclear program, including some uranium enrichment and research and development
  • Protecting Iran's "right" under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to a peaceful nuclear energy program to alleviate the drain on its oil sources and fuel modern development
  • Removing nuclear-related sanctions on Iran by the United States, European Union and United Nations


July 14 Update: Iran released the most detailed report to date explaining its practical needs for its nuclear program. It was posted on the quasi-official website NuclearEnergy.ir.


For more information, see:

David Albright and Andrea Stricker “Centrifuges: Key to Final Nuclear Deal
Robert Einhorn “Preventing a Nuclear Armed Iran

Photo credits: Rubik's Cube by by Lars Karlsson (Keqs) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons [edited by Iran Primer], President.ir



Iran Nuke Program 2: ABCs of Sites

      The following is a rundown of Iran’s key nuclear sites. Each will be a subject at diplomatic talks between the Islamic Republic and the world's six major powers.






Bushehr Nuclear Facility
        The Bushehr facility contains Iran’s first nuclear power plant. Its light-water reactor was loaded with nuclear fuel in August 2010. It has an operating capacity of 1,000 megawatts. Bushehr was originally launched in 1976 under contract with a German company, but after the 1979 revolution, Washington opposed it on the grounds that weapons grade plutonium could be extracted from the reactor’s waste, allowing Iran to construct nuclear weapons. Iran says the plant is for power-generation purposes only and will be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
      The theocracy halted construction of the Bushehr reactor after the 1979 revolution, and it was badly damaged during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. But Tehran decided to revive the project in 1990 to provide energy. The contract was awarded to Russia’s Rosatom Corp. To address international concerns, Moscow agreed to supply the enriched uranium fuel for the power plant and take back its plutonium-bearing spent fuel. In February 2005, Tehran and Moscow signed an agreement designed to ensure Iran could not divert enriched uranium for a weapons program.  In September 2013, Russia transferred operational control of some key facilities to Iran.
Natanz Fuel Enrichment Facility
         This fuel enrichment facility is at the heart of Iran’s dispute with the United Nations. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled opposition group, revealed the existence of the facility in 2002. It is located just outside the city of Natanz, approximately 130 miles south of Tehran.
         The site consists of two facilities:
  • An above-ground pilot fuel enrichment plant (PFEP)
  • A larger, underground fuel enrichment plant with the capacity to hold up to 50,000 centrifuges (FEP). 
      Activities at Natanz were suspended in 2004 following an agreement negotiated by Britain, France and Germany. But Iran restarted its uranium enrichment at the FEP after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election in 2005. The international community is concerned that Iran may use the enrichment technology at Natanz for nuclear weapons. These activities were proscribed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1696 in 2006. Iran rejects the legality of these resolutions.
            Iran has not installed new centrifuges at either of the Natanz sites since the implementation of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action. And enrichment of uranium above five percent is no longer taking place at Natanz, according to a February 2014 U.N. report. About 160 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent still remains at the site but some of the stockpile is being downblended or converted to uranium oxide, which could not easily be used to fuel a nuclear weapon. 
Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility
          The historic city of Isfahan is home to several nuclear-related sites, but the most significant facility is the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Plant. Isfahan also has a fuel fabrication laboratory, a uranium chemistry laboratory and a zirconium production plant. The conversion plant has been operational since 2006, and converts uranium yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for Iran's enrichment facilities. The facility can also produce uranium metal and oxides for fuel and other purposes.
Tehran Nuclear Research Center
      The Tehran Nuclear Research Center is a complex of several laboratories, including the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). The TRR produces radioisotopes for medical and research purposes. The United States supplied Iran with the 5-megawatt light-water reactor in 1967; it was fueled with highly enriched uranium (around 90 percent). In 1987, Argentina concluded a deal with Iran to change the core of the reactor so it could operate on low-enriched uranium (20 percent).
Arak Heavy Water Plant and Reactor
           The Arak nuclear facility includes a heavy water production plant, which has been operational since 2006, and a 40-megawatt heavy water reactor still under construction. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled opposition group, also revealed the existence of this facility in 2002.
      Heavy water production plants are not subject to traditional safeguards of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory. Under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol, Tehran would be subject to declarations and complementary access for IAEA inspectors. Since Iran has signed but not yet ratified the Additional Protocol, the IAEA uses satellite imagery to monitor the facility. Iran's heavy-water-related activities are also proscribed by U.N. Resolution 1696, which Tehran rejects.
            In December 2013, Iran provided the IAEA with information and access to the plant. Approximately 100 tons of reactor-grade heavy water have been produced at Arak since 2006. 
Qom Uranium Enrichment Facility (Fordo)
      This secret uranium enrichment facility was made public in 2009 after the United States shared intelligence about it with allies, and Iran confirmed its existence. Construction of the uranium enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom began around 2006, but Tehran maintained that it was not required to report its existence under the safeguard obligations until six months before it became operational. The plant has a few installed centrifuges, but Iran stopped all work once the site was publicized. The facility is located on a mountain on what was reportedly a former Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ missile site.
           The facility’s revelation prompted concern that Iran intended to construct a potential breakout facility where it could make weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb. Iran told the IAEA that the plant was intended to enrich uranium only to 5 percent, which is not enough for a nuclear weapon. The plant is believed to have room for 3,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
            Parchin is a military complex about 19 miles southeast of Tehran. The IAEA suspects Iran may have conducted experiments related to nuclear weapons production. U.N. inspectors visited the site twice in 2005 but did not find anything suspicious. But the IAEA later received additional evidence about alleged experiments. “We didn’t have enough information [back then],” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in 2012. “Extensive activities have taken place” at Parchin that have “seriously undermined” the IAEA’s ability to investigate possible military dimensions of Iran’s program, according to a February 2014 report.
            Iran apparently undertook cleanup activities, according to satellite imagery analyzed by the Institute for Science and International Security. The IAEA noted that satellite imagery revealed “possible building material and debris” at Parchin in 2014.
Gchine Mine and Mill
            The Gchine mine is located in southern Iran in Bandar Abbas. The associated mill is located at the same site. According to the IAEA, it began production in 2004 and has an estimated production capacity of 21 tons of uranium per year. The IAEA has questioned the mine’s ownership and relationship to Iran’s military. In January 2014, Iran provided the IAEA with managed access to the mine.
July 14 Update: Iran released the most detailed report to date explaining its practical needs for its nuclear program. It was posted on the quasi-official website NuclearEnergy.ir.


Photo credits: NuclearEnergy.ir, Natanz via Iranian President's Office and The New York Times



Iran Nuke Program 3: ABCs from Khamenei

            Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has voiced his opposition to nuclear weapons on several occasions during the last decade. The following are excerpted remarks in reverse chronological order.


      “Even now that reason - including religious and political reason - has made it clear that the Islamic Republic is not after nuclear weapons, American officials bring up the issue of nuclear weapons whenever they address the nuclear issue. This is while they themselves know that not having nuclear weapons is the definite policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
      April 9, 2014 in a speech to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran
      “We are against nuclear weapons not because of the U.S. or others, but because of our beliefs. And when we say no one should have nuclear weapons, we definitely do not pursue it ourselves either.”
      Sept. 17, 2013 in a meeting with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders
            “Nuclear weapons are neither a #security provider, nor a cause of consolidation of political power but rather a threat to both. The events of the 1990s proved that possessing such weapons would not save any regimes including the Soviet Union. Today as well, we know countries who are faced with fatal torrents of insecurity, despite having nuclear bombs.
           “The bitter irony of our time is that the U.S. government has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons and is the only government that has used them, while it bears the flag of anti-nukes struggle!”
            Aug. 30, 2012
            “We do not possess a nuclear weapon and we will not build one, but
we will defend ourselves against any aggression, whether by the U.S. or the Zionist regime, with the same level [of force].”
            March 20, 2012 in a speech marking Nowruz, Persian New Year
            “Nuclear weapons are not at all beneficial to us. Moreover, from an ideological and fiqhi (juridical) perspective, we consider developing nuclear weapons as unlawful. We consider using such weapons as a big sin. We also believe that keeping such weapons is futile and dangerous, and we will never go after them.”
            Feb. 22, 2012 in a speech to nuclear scientists
            “Islam is opposed to nuclear weapons and that Tehran is not working to build them.”
            February 2010 at a ship-christening ceremony
      “The Iranian people and their officials have declared times and again that the nuclear weapon is religiously forbidden in Islam and they do not have such a weapon. But the western countries and America in particular through false propaganda claim that Iran seeks to build nuclear bombs which is totally false and a breach of the legitimate rights of the Iranian nation.”
      June 4, 2009 in a speech marking the 20th anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death
      “Even though the Iranian nation does not have an atomic bomb and keeps no intention to possess the deadly weapon, the world acknowledges that it is a dignified nation because the dignity of the nation has emerged from its resolve, faith, good deed and bright goals.”
      Sept. 9, 2007 in a speech to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders
            Iran “is not, and the westerners know it well, after a nuclear weapon, because it stands contrary to the country's political and economic interests as well as Islam's statute.”
            Jan. 18, 2006 to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov’s visiting delegation
            “No sir, we are not seeking to have nuclear weapons… [to] manufacture, possess or use them, that all poses a problem. I have expressed my religious convictions about this, and everyone knows it.”
            Nov. 5, 2004 in a Friday sermon
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran, based on its fundamental religious and legal beliefs, would never resort to the use of weapons of mass destruction," Khamenei said recently. "In contrast to the propaganda of our enemies, fundamentally we are against any production of weapons of mass destruction in any form.”
            October 2003, according to the San Francisco Chronicle
July 14 Update: Iran released the most detailed report to date explaining its practical needs for its nuclear program. It was posted on the quasi-official website NuclearEnergy.ir.
Photo credit: Khamenei.ir via Facebook

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